Shiny ObjectRaise your hand if you have ever watched your favorite athlete, actor or singer having a bad performance, and thought to yourself, “Their head is not in the game. They’re just phoning it in.” If it’s an athletic event, you are likely prepared for your team to lose. If it’s your favorite actor or singer, you are deciding whether to change the channel or leave early.

No one enjoys watching a performer who’s not fully present. It’s the worst. Audience members start questioning everything – what’s being said, why they’re even in the room, the meaning of life, what to have for dinner. The question for the speaker is, if you’re not fully present, why speak? Because it was scheduled? Because we’re all here so we might as well go through with it? Full disclosure: I was recently a victim – I mean audience member – who was forced to half-listen to a dull, mostly-distracted speaker. And I can’t get that time back.

Assuming you do not want to be “that guy,” here are three ways to ensure you show up fully present and engaged the next time you speak:

1. Are you motivated and competent? This comes straight from the field of psychology, specifically, Frederick Herzberg. Do you feel competent to speak about your topic? Are you the right person to deliver the key message? If not, perhaps someone else should speak instead. Then, are you sufficiently motivated to speak to this particular audience? Removing two elements from your calculus – performance anxiety, and not having complete control over who is in the room – if your answer is yes to both of these questions, then you have glided over the first hurdle to being fully present when you speak.

2. Are you rested, hydrated and nourished? As opposed to say, hangryI remember flying to Michigan to deliver a luncheon keynote address.  I decided to take the early-morning flight from Boston, which would put me at the venue at least an hour early. That sounds so quaint and naive in retrospect. Suffice it to say that several delays resulted in my racing (and schvitzing) into the ballroom with seconds to spare. I was hungry, thirsty, and frustrated – the holy trinity of low-quality presence.

3. Do you have a “host” mindset? As opposed to “guest of honor” mindset, or worse, a “twelve-year-old being dragged to the adult party against their will” mindset. Great speakers adopt the host approach; they know public speaking is a social event, above all else. They instill a feeling of gratitude in their audience members. I was working with someone from the hospitality industry recently, and she said that no one in their company is allowed to use the words “customer” or “visitor.” They can only use the word “guest.” That makes sense to me. It helps remind hotel staff that they are all hosts and should make guests feel welcome with each interaction.

With these three elements working in your favor, every word you say, every message you convey, every call to action you deliver, stands a much greater chance of being received by your audience, and they will be better for having participated. Your attitude and demeanor – much more than your words – helped them like you, trust you, and believe you.

Want more tips, tricks and techniques to enhance your public speaking skills? Check out our Dynamic Speaker Series here!

– Barbara

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